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How To Expand Outside A Small Market: Advice From An Irish Period Brand

how-to-expand-outside-a-small-market:-advice-from-an-irish-period-brand

Ecommerce gives business owners the opportunity to find new customers in other markets and scale more quickly. That can be crucial for businesses that don’t start in large markets.

Take Riley. It’s a clean period products company that was founded in Ireland, a country with a population of just over seven million. 

But Riley’s business grew by 12 times between 2021 and 2022, thanks to partnerships with corporate clients and local charities, and expansion across Europe.

For other brands looking to expand outside a small market, Riley co-founder Fiona Parfrey shares her takeaways that helped the business scale internationally.

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Infusing education into marketing

The idea for Riley sprung from Fiona and her friends looking for a subscription service for their period products. “You can get so much on subscription, but a period is something that you get every month, and yet we always run out of these products,” Fiona says. “So having them delivered to your door conveniently whereby you never need to worry about them just made complete sense to us when we launched the business.”

But people in Ireland aren’t as familiar with subscriptions as they are in other countries, so Fiona and her co-founders were not only educating customers on their products, but the subscription model as well.

“There was a little bit of hesitancy toward subscriptions here in Ireland,” Fiona says. “It’s not as common as in the US or even the UK, and so there’s definitely been an educational piece for us to just reassure customers that they’re not locked into any contracts. They’re always in full control of their subscription.”

Two hands holding up Riley sanitary pads
Riley makes period products that are biodegradable with compostable packaging. Riley

Finding manufacturers close to home

The founders of Riley also wanted to sell period products that were better for women and better for the environment. That means they needed to find a manufacturer that wasn’t putting harmful chemicals in tampons and pads and could make compostable wrappers and applicators.

They looked at manufacturers all over the world, but ultimately decided on a supplier in Europe, where it was easier to verify their certifications and manufacturing process.

“Because it was so close to home, it’s really useful for us to be able to jump on a plane and visit our manufacturer and be on the ground,” Fiona says. This helped her have more control over quality and develop better relationships with the manufacturer. 

Finding a nearby manufacturer also helped the co-founders launch in a short amount of time. From idea to final product, Riley became a reality in just four months. 

Knowing when to outsource logistics

Riley had such a successful launch that it ran out of packaging within the first week. “We were growing so quickly that we ended up doing more of the packing and operations than actually working on the business,” Fiona says.

After a few months, Riley began using two third-party logistics companies—one in Ireland and one in Europe—so customers all over the continent could get their products delivered more quickly.

Riley tampons and applicators<
Riley provides sanitary napkins and tampons for women that want to use healthier and more sustainable products, but don’t want to make a lifestyle change to use menstrual cups or period underwear. Riley

Taking it one country at a time

Riley’s partnerships and content marketing strategy across its website and social media have focused solely on the English market. That’s about to change. “We’re very aware that there’s different cultural nuances and language barriers when it comes to launching in certain countries,” Fiona says.

Riley decided to focus on expanding into one non-English speaking country this year and is planning to launch a German version of its site to test a new market.

Spreading goodwill far and wide

Riley now supplies period products to corporate clients like Accenture and Deloitte. It also works with Ireland-based charities, like Positive Period Ireland and Her Sport, to provide products to provision centers and domestic abuse shelters, as well as provide funding for educational school visits.

Taking the brand’s social impact efforts global, Riley partnered with Development Pamoja, an Irish charity that does volunteer projects in rural Kenya. “It’s just incredibly rewarding to know that we’re having such a positive impact on people’s lives,” Fiona says.

To learn more about how Riley is expanding throughout Europe and helping people all over the world, listen to Fiona’s full interview on Shopify Masters.

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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